WRC 5 was the first WRC title from developer Kylotonn and – let’s be honest – it wasn’t very good. Then came WRC 6 last year that was – at the very least – playable, but made you ask, “why bother” with other, better, rally titles available.
Now comes WRC 7, which Kylotonn says will be more sim-like. Hell, forget sim, I just want it to give me some sensation of being in the WRC.
But, what if I told you that Kylotonn is onto something? And by onto something, I mean make a rally game that is much more than the sum of its parts.
Interested? You should be.
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PRO – STAGES
The stages in WRC 7 are awesome in every single way. Every stage is narrower, making every centimeter count, and really upping the difficulty. Also ramping up the difficulty, and realism, is the track surface. The surface is not just bumpier, but has a wide range of grip levels.
Sure, you should feel the difference between gravel, snow and tarmac in a rally game, and you do in WRC 7. But what about the difference between dry Australian gravel and wet Finnish gravel? Or the difference between the ice covered tarmac of Monte Carlo and the fresh powder of Sweden? Or just the difference between dry and wet tarmac?
The ever changing track surfaces are constantly keeping you on your toes, and add a lot to the experience.
Speaking of ever changing track surfaces, these surfaces come bundled with a location, and they don’t disappoint either. There are 13 locations – or rallies – in WRC 7 and no two feel similar. Every single one has it’s own unique feel, whether it’s the layout of the stage, or just the surrounding environment.
There are four stages per rally, adding up to 52 stages in the game. Each rally has two-to-three “Special Stages” – aka standard stage that usually ranges from 4-8 km in length – and one “Epic Stage” that is anywhere from 13-23 km in length and usually uses one or two of the shorter special stages as part of the overall stage.
These Epic Stages live up to their name, taking anywhere from 10-15 minutes to complete, which is a lot of time to not put a wheel wrong.
Some rallies feature “Super Special Stages” that are – for the most part – closed circuit where two cars are racing at the same time. These stages – like all the other stages in the game – mimic the real world World Rally Championship and are a nice change of pace.
Besides these big details, there are small details that help the immersion. There’s a good atmosphere around the rallies, with the right amount of spectators – and livestock – dotting the course, shrubbery that can be kicked up if you run wide and even your competitors wrecked cars on the side of the road from time-to-time.
The quality and quantity of stages really anchor the game and are part of the one-two punch that kept us coming back for more.
PRO – PHYSICS
If the stages are the first punch, then what is the second punch in WRC 7? The physics. Or dare we say, the very sim-like physics.
The cars just feel believable. You can feel the suspension travel. You can feel the backend kicking out on you and you can bring it back in line with throttle and steering input. You can feel when the track surface is giving you grip and when it isn’t. You can feel how the car gets nervous over choppy surfaces. You can feel how the 2017 WRC cars are more stable over the included 2016 cars thanks to their aero upgrades.
There’s just an overall sense of, “this feels right.” In WRC 5 and 6 you had to adjust your driving to what the car’s physics where giving you. In WRC 7, you just drive and the car follows as a willing dance partner.
The 2017 cars really are a lot of fun to drive. They stop and go amazingly well, and can really be man-handled. While not as grippy, the 2016 WRC cars and the 2017 WRC2 cars are also fun to drive and do a nice job of dancing on the edge of adhesion. Lastly, there’s the Junior WRC Ford Fiesta R2T’s that throw a little FWD into the equation.
Is there anything about the physics that we didn’t like?
We do think that the WRC cars stop a little too well, especially in a straight line on tarmac. I’m also not a big fan of the FWD Fiesta that doesn’t give you much – or any – torque steer off of corners and seems to rotate with throttle like a RWD car. On the other hand, my review partner in crime, Billy Strange, thought the car drove fine. Either way, it’s a car you probably won’t spend much time in so it isn’t worth the oxygen to fuss over.
But everything else about the physics is worth the oxygen, because people really should know how good it is.
PRO – GAME MODES
WRC 7 has a good mix when it comes to the game modes. A good chunk of your time will most likely be found in the “Solo” menu that contains “Quick Game, Custom Championship, Career and Driving Test” incase you missed it at the beginning of the game or want to have your driving re-judged.
Quick Game is self-explanatory so lets focus on Career and Custom Championship. Career takes advantage of the lower class WRC cars to start you at the bottom and make you work your way up. You start out in the Fiesta Junior WRC car and pick a team depending on whether you think you are fast, good at taking care of the car or a combo of both, and off you go to pre-determined rallies. If you meet your objective, you move on to the WRC2 cars, and then the WRC cars. If not, back to the start you go.
The amount of time you spend in Career really depends on how quickly you advance. But even if you do tear through it – from either being fast or dropping the difficulty – it offers up a nice variety of rallies, stages, time of day and weather conditions.
You also get to repair your car at the end of each day but you can’t go over the 45 min repair time rule that the WRC has. Most of the time this isn’t an issue, but if you really wreck it up, then you could get yourself in a hole.
If starting off in lower class cars or religiously following the official WRC schedule isn’t your cup of tea, then you can create a Custom Championship. Pick a car, pick rallies, pick stages, pick what days to run stages, pick time of day, pick weather, and off you go. You can have three Custom Championships running at one time and we found the customization and “drive anything” approach to be pretty appealing.
If you’re looking for some multiplayer action, “Challenges” stands out with its own special spot on the Main Menu. Challenges only last for a certain number of days before changing to a new one. You score points based on your time and “Score Modifiers” such as air time and not getting damage. You can run as many times as you like but your first attempt scores more than any attempts after.
As for actual “Multiplayer,” we weren’t able to check those modes out because we tested pre-release.
But for what we did test, Career and Custom Championship are well done and should continue to bring you back for more.
NEUTRAL – CO-DRIVER
The co-driver in WRC 7 is serviceable. More times than not the he gets the call right. Sometimes he does miss, and the too early “BRAKE!” callouts get old, but again, a majority of the time he’s accurate.
You can adjust how much detail you want from the co-driver and their timing from “Far ahead” to “Very late”. I chosed “Late,” and for the most part, the timing was consistent but there were times when he seemed to get ahead of himself.
In terms of the co-driver’s voice, it’s not bad. It would be nice for him to sound like he’s in a moving rally car going over bumps, but besides that he’s fine. But if his voice really throws you off you can just turn him to a different language. Sure it won’t help you get around corners but maybe you’ll pick up a little Japanese!
If we had to give a trust factor to the co-driver it would be an 8/10. You’ll take his suggestion but still breath the throttle a smidge around that blind corner.
NEUTRAL – SOUNDS
The co-pilot’s voice isn’t the only sound that is middling. There really isn’t much to say here. The sounds aren’t bad, but they aren’t mind blowing either. The big things, engine note, exhaust cracks, crowd noise are there. But the little details, transmission whine, different types of exhaust pops and cracks, chassis flex, shocks bottoming out, aren’t.
NEUTRAL – GRAPHICS
Graphics ended up in the NEUTRAL category because there are a lot of pros and lot of cons.
On the pros side, the graphics are better than WRC 6. The driver model and fans on the side of the road look pretty good. As mentioned earlier, stages have great details. The shrubbery, fences and markers all bring immersion. The lighting at night looks really cool. Glossy and matte paint on the cars is done well. Dirt on the car looks good and you have 100% control over your wipers to remove it. Tire tracks behind the cars on replays just add to the already very detailed track surface, which probably is the best looking detail in the game.
But there are cons.
Overall, the game looks dated. Color palette looks washed out at times. Cars are kind of low-res looking. The game has built in motion blur which can be really distracting, especially on a single monitor. You can move the seat forward, but not necessarily as far as you like, and no up/down adjustment. Replay mode doesn’t allow you to watch the entire stage from the TV view, it only cycles. Lastly, despite being long-in-the-tooth looking, it doesn’t run great. With graphics on “Very High” and most “Post Processing” effects off, I was only getting about 50-60 frames per second (fps) on my PC that pumps out fps in the triple digits on titles that look much better and have true triple screen support.
To get some fps back, I turned the settings down to “High” and ran in the 80-90 fps range with really no noticeable difference in the game’s appearance.
But despite that, at the end of the day, some nice graphic details are overshadowed by a graphics engine that feels dated.
NEUTRAL – FORCE FEEDBACK
Why is force feedback in the NEUTRAL category? Because it’s just okay. The game transfers enough so you can drive the car accurately, but not much more than that.
The strength is a little low, but most of all, it’s just lacking detail. The Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer that I drove with was pretty much just constantly vibrating. No real differentiation from one surface or scenario to the other. I even turned the vibration down to 70% in-game because the constant vibration was annoying.
Not much more to say than that. Force feedback is good enough to let you know the physics are good and to get you around the circuit confidently, which isn’t bad, but isn’t anything to shout from the rooftops over.
NEUTRAL – DAMAGE
There’s pros and cons to the damage model.
On the pros side, you can mechanically tear up your car in many ways, whether that’s over revving the engine or blowing out a tire on a rock. Once these events do happen, you can definitely feel it. When I blew a tire I had to drive REAL slow to get the car through the stage. It’s also good to visually see the car get beat up with scratches, dents and a few body pieces shifted.
But, there are some cons.
The cars are a little too resilient. You can roll it or hit a tree pretty good and keep on ticking. Plus, visually the cars don’t really deform or shed parts until you pull a Days of Thunder.
While having a somewhat forgiving damage model makes sense for the general player, and should be available, it would be nice to have it be a little more severe when on “simulation” mode.
CON – NO MOUSE / VR / TRIPLE SCREEN SUPPORT
If a game comes to the PC, it needs mouse support to navigate the menus. Using a keyboard and wheel is kind of annoying. What’s even more annoying is if you hit “Enter” on your keyboard when you first fire up the game, the game doesn’t know your wheel exists.
Annoying. Silly. Needs to be fixed.
Also along the lines of “if you’re coming to the PC in 2017” you really need VR and triple screen support. Yes, it’s a niche audience. Okay, a very, very niche audience. But, a niche audience with some of the most hardcore sim racing fans around who I bet are more likely to throw some money your way than your average consumer.
And just to clarify, while I’m utilizing all three of my screens when playing WRC 7, it’s not triple screen support. One image is being stretched across all three screens. Why it looks stretched on the side monitors. Support would be rendering the image three times, one render for each screen.
As for VR, I raced WRC 6 at E3 in VR, and while it wasn’t the best VR experience, it was passable. I’m not sure what’s holding VR implementation up but I do wonder if the graphics engine just isn’t strong enough to deliver smooth fps in VR or triple screens?
CON – WHEEL & PEDAL AXIS DETECTION
Wheel and pedal “Axis Detection” in WRC 7 is a good idea with terrible execution. The whole idea is that if you have an unsupported wheel, you can still use it thanks the Axis Detection.
Side note, we haven’t seen a supported wheels list yet so this is doubly good.
But the issue is, it’s all messed up. For example, I tried to run the Thrustmaster TS-XW wheel with the Fanatec ClubSport V3 pedals. In theory, I fire up the Axis Detection and turn the wheel, and press the pedals and the game recognizes them, applies axis, and off I go.
Instead, it recognizes the wheel, then does nothing with the pedals. I then go to “Button Bindings” and I manually bind the pedals and they get binded as “buttons” instead of “axis”…
And if you go back to Axis Detection after binding them….nothing, same issue of not being recognized.
Surprisingly, someway, somehow, the pedals work fine afterward binding them even though they’re labeled as buttons instead of axis. Was even able to bind the Fanatec ClubSport Handbrake V1.5 plugged into the pedals too.
While it worked in the end, I spent my first three hours with the game trying to figure this out, swapping out pedals, checking my sanity, etc. And funny enough, the next day I got a string of profanity laced Skype messages from Billy with the same issue as he tried to get the game setup.
So, while it’s good that multiple input devices – two or more USB’s plugged into the PC – and it’s nice they have a way to map unsupported wheels, this whole process has to be cleaned up.
I said at the top, “what if Kylotonn made a rally game that is better than the sum of its parts?” I stated this because when I look back through this review, I see a lot of comments like “middling, okay, serviceable, not bad,” even “terrible.”
But despite those observations, I find myself really enjoying WRC 7 because they got the two most important things right, stages and physics. While I’m certainly not one of those people that thinks physics is ALL that matters in sim racing, it’s certainly the biggest piece of the puzzle.
And when you get that right, then nail the other big piece, the circuit – at least top two biggest in rally racing IMO – then you don’t have to be scoring 10/10 in other categories.
I just really like the game because the physics allow me to take on these awesome, challenging and unique stages. It’s all about the stages for me, and I think they’re going to be the reason why people pick up this game and stick with it.